After a 45-minute struggle to keep a piece of first place in Group A, Tau Ceramica gave new coach Velimir Perasovic the gift of a 92-96 overtime win against Benetton in Treviso, Italy on Wednesday. Tau Ceramica improved to 4-1, while Benetton dropped to 3-2. Perasovic, a three-time Euroleague champ as a player, joined Tau only two days earlier but his team was in charge most of the night. Serkan Erdogan, just back from injury, led the winners with 21 points. Luis Scola and Kornel David each had 18 points, Travis Hansen 14 and Tiago Splitter 11, while Pablo Prigioni dished 10 assists for Tau. Petar Popovic had a double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds for Benetton. Marcus Goree also had 20 points, Marco Mordente 18 and 8 rebounds while Drew Nicholas scored 15. Tau led 35-54 late in the first half, but Benetton kept coming back until 4 late free throws in regulation time by Nikos Zisis and a pair by Prigioni sent the teams to overtime tied 83-83. There Scola, Casey Jacobsen and a decisive Erdogan allowed Tau to leave Pallaverde with a valuable win.
Popovic's three-point play opened the scoring, but Hansen immediately blasted off with 8 straight points – includine back-to-back triples - to spur Tau to a 3-8 lead after 2 minutes. David capped the 0-10 run with a jumper before Nicholas broke Benetton's drought. Tau bit with its defense even though Goree and Mordente found the way to narrow the deficit, 9-12, by going inside. Tau’s pick-and-roll hurt the Benetton defense again as David scoring inside to widen the gap to 11-18. Jacobsen's first basket gave Tau a double-digit lead, 12-22, while Splitter's put-back of an offensive rebound push up it up to 11, at 14-25. Tau saved another 4 unanswered points by Splitter and Erdogan to close the quarter with its highest margin, 16-29.
The PalaVerde crowd in Treviso tried to motivate the home team, but Tau still dominated as Jacobsen cut through the Benetton defense and Erdogan buried a corner triple to make it 18-34 after 11 minutes. With Benetton switching to zone now, Tau got to the offensive boards, one of which Splitter dunked. Erdogan couldn't miss from the corner as Tau reached a 17-point edge, 22-39, in minute 13. Mordente's three-pointer was the first one for Benetton, and after a layup by Nicholas, the hosts were closer, at, 29-41. But Tau exploded again with an impressive 2-11 run to set a 20-point margin, 31-52, on jumpers by Erdogan and Scola. Only Popovic's effort for Benetton got the difference down to 37-54 by halftime.
Benetton's reaction came early in the second half as Mordente sparked a 7-2 run with steals and pressure. Benetton didn't stop Scola, but Prigioni's third foul, after he had dished 9 first-half assists, sent Tau's driver to the bench. Benetton raised its intensity level now as Mordente helped lower Tau's margin to 15 points, 48-63. The momentum appeared to shift to Benetton as Mordente and Soragna drew charging fouls, and at the other end, Popovic and Mordente paced a 10-0 scoring capped by a Goree free throw that cut the difference to 58-63. Tau remained scoreless for 4 minutes until Hansen's triple off a timeout made it 58-66. But Nicholas had a different idea as he sank a buzzer-beating triple for a 64-68 scoreboard after 30 minutes.
Hansen came out for the fourth quarter and buried another triple while Prigioni fed Splitter to maintain a seven-point lead, 66-73. As Benetton made defensive stops now, Andrea Bargnani exploded from the bench to trade baskets with Scola, but Prigioni hit a big three to keep Tau in charge 70-78. The Benetton defense held even stronger through several minutes in which on the hosts scored free throws, by Nicholas and Bargnani, as the difference was trimmed little by little to just a single point, 77-78, with 1:30 left. After a Benetton turnover, Scola's jumper gave Tau a three-point edge, 77-80, with 34 seconds. Nicholas put back an offensive board to pull Benetton within 1 again, 79-80, then Erdogan made 1 of 2 free throws, 79-81. With 14 seconds, Hansen was called for an unsportsmanlike foul and Zisis first tied at 81-81 and then hit 2 more free throws to put Benetton up 83-81 with 14 seconds left Prigioni went to the line too, fouled by Mordente, and tied the game with 10 seconds left. Zisis couldn't get the last shot in regulation time to fall and the teams went to overtime tied 83-83.
After Scola and Goree exchanged baskets in the extra period, both teams fell scoreless for 90 seconds. Scola broke the tie from inside, 85-87, and Jacobsen added a free throw for an 85-88 Tau lead. Nicholas assisted Mordente's three-pointer to tie again, 88-88, with 2 minutes remaining. Then it went to 90-90 on Erdogan's free throws and Goree's put-back. It was David who sank the crucial jumper for Tau, making it 90-92 with less than a minute remaining, then Jacobsen pushed it up to 90-94 by going inside. With 16 seconds, Goree scored and was fouled, but missed the free throw, letting Tau reach the free throw line ahead still by 92-94. Erdogan posted both foul shots with 9 seconds and Tau escaped with an dramatic 92-96 overtime road win.
Wednesday, November 30, 2005